The Monitor Movie Guide
Red stars denote the reviews of Monitor movie critic David Sterritt unless otherwise noted. Ratings and comments by the Monitor panel ( blue stars) reflect the sometimes diverse views of at least three other moviegoers. Information on violence, drugs, sex/nudity, and profanity is compiled by the Monitor panel.
David Sterritt Monitor panel Meaning
**** **** Excellent
*** *** Good
** ** Fair
* * Poor
DUD DUD The Worst
Close-Up (Not rated) **** Director: Abbas Kiarostami. With Hossain Sabzian, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Abbas Kiarostami. (90 min.)
The quirky true-life story of an Iranian man arrested for impersonating a famous movie director, and then befriended by another filmmaker who persuaded the con artist to play himself in this movie. Widely regarded as Iran's greatest director, Kiarostami has crafted a funny, suspenseful, ultimately endearing look at the lure of celebrity and the mysteries of filmmaking. In Farsi with English subtitles
Dr. Strangelove; or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Not rated) **** Director: Stanley Kubrick. With Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, Keenan Wynn, James Earl Jones, Slim Pickens, Peter Bull, Tracy Reed. (94 min.)
Revival of the legendary 1964 satire about the evils of the nuclear-arms race, the absurdities of militarism, and the insanity of thinking that "fighting for peace" is a route to anything but chaos. Comedies don't come darker, smarter, or more bitingly hilarious.
Fantasia/2000 (G) *** Directors: Pixote Hunt, Hendel Butoy, Eric Goldberg, James Algar, Francis Glebas, Gatan Brizzi, Paul Brizzi. With Steve Martin, Bette Midler, James Earl Jones. (75 min.)
Although it's less novel and feisty than the original "Fantasia" of 1940, this collection of music-filled animations is highly entertaining at times, especially when Al Hirschfeld's drawing style teams with George Gershwin's music for a jazzy "Rhapsody in Blue," and when Donald and Daisy Duck take a trip on Noah's ark accompanied by Sir Edward Elgar's usually stuffy "Pomp and Circumstance" marches. Best of all, "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" is recycled from the earlier film. It's still the highlight of the show.
Galaxy Quest (PG) *** Director: Dean Parisot. With Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, Tony Shalhoub, Daryl Mitchell. (102 min.)
A delegation from a faraway planet recruits the cast of a "Star Trek"-type TV show to help them win an intergalactic war, not realizing the Earthlings are just actors who've defeated all their "aliens" with plastic rayguns and camera tricks. The story is silly, the acting is campy, the effects are amusingly tacky. In all, a mildly entertaining romp that pokes refreshing fun at its own occasional violence.
The Hurricane (R) ** Director: Norman Jewison. With Denzel Washington, Deborah Kara Unger, Liev Schreiber, Dan Hedaya, Vicellous Reon Shannon, Rod Steiger, David Paymer. (140 min.)
Washington gives a sizzling performance as real-life hero Ruben "Hurricane" Carter, an African-American boxer who was arrested and jailed by racist authorities for a grisly crime he had nothing to do with. The story is
so important and compelling that you wish Jewison had treated it more as an urgent wake-up call than a by-the-numbers morality play. Still, it's well worth seeing as a poignant reminder of how readily injustice can prevail when racial bigotry runs loose.
Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr. (PG-13) **** Director: Errol Morris. With Fred A. Leuchter Jr., Ernst Zndel, David Irving, Shelly Shapiro, James Roth. (91 min.)
This gripping nonfiction movie pays a revealing, bitterly ironic visit to a self-made entrepreneur who established himself as a designer of equipment for capital punishment, and then became a speaker on the "Holocaust denial" circuit, arguing that Jews and others didn't perish in gas chambers during the Nazi reign of terror. Morris's unique blend of realism and surrealism gives the film great resonance as a portrait of one eccentric individual and, more important, a study of the morbid proclivities that run beneath the surface of our supposedly civilized society. (see stories, pages 16 and 17)
The Third Miracle (R) ** Director: Agnieszka Holland. With Ed Harris, Anne Heche, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Barbara Sukowa. (119 min.)
Assigned to research the life of a woman who might be a candidate for sainthood, a Roman Catholic priest finds himself in conflict with a senior church authority and in love with the daughter of the woman he's investigating. The film's interest in spiritual experience would be more enriching if it weren't bent into the shape of a basically conventional melodrama complete with gimmicky plot twists. Harris and Heche make an interesting team, though, and the picture reaps the benefit of their creative performances.
CURRENTLY IN RELEASE
Anna and the King (PG-13) ** Director: Andy Tennant. With Jodie Foster, Chow Yun-Fat, Bai Ling, Tom Felton. (146 min.)
The adventures of an English schoolteacher who takes a job as tutor to a Siamese prince and enters a deliciously complex relationship with the boy's regal father. Based on the same memoir that inspired "The King and I," this colorfully filmed drama makes many changes from the classic 1956 version of the tale - most important, the music numbers are gone - but doesn't develop enough momentum to justify its too-long running time. (see story, page 19) ***1/2 Chow Yun-Fat great, lush landscapes, tender.
Sex/Nudity: 1 very mild scene implied sex. Violence: 12 scenes from shooting to children tussling. Profanity: None. Drugs: 1 scene with alcohol, 6 with smoking, 1 with alcohol and smoking.
Any Given Sunday (R) *** Director: Oliver Stone. With Al Pacino, Cameron Diaz, Jamie Foxx, James Woods, Dennis Quaid. (162 min.)
Pacino plays the aging coach of a football team that's seen better days, and Foxx is excellent as a stylish new player who revitalizes the franchise while breaking many rules along the way. The characters are hardly original - the cynical owner, the hard-working quarterback, the stony-faced commissioner, the sportscaster with an attitude - but Stone puts them into play with his usual fever-pitch gusto, producing what's probably the most heart-pounding gridiron movie ever made. **1/2 Most machismo in a movie ever, compelling portrait of American football, vulgar, jerky camera movements.
Sex/Nudity: 5 fairly graphic scenes with nudity, including 2 with full frontal male nudity; 1 sex scene with nudity. Violence: 13 scenes of off-field violence, mostly shoving; 22 instances of especially rough on-field play. Profanity: 288 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 11 scenes with alcohol, 6 with cigarettes, 14 with cigars, 1 with cocaine.
Bicentennial Man (PG) ** Director: Chris Columbus. With Robin Williams, Embeth Davitz, Oliver Platt, Wendy Crewson, Sam Neill. (133 min.)
In the not-so-distant future, a family acquires a household robot with an individualistic streak that makes him dream of an independent life. Kids may yawn at the movie's dawdling pace, but making Williams play an android is one way to stifle the gooey sentimentality that has marred so many of his performances.
Cradle Will Rock (R) *** Director: Tim Robbins. With Emily Watson, John Cusack, Joan Cusack, Susan Sarandon, Bill Murray. (122 min.)
Set in the New York theater scene during the 1930s, this colorful comedy-drama scampers through various plots and subplots from the ambitions of a starving actress to the love-hate relationship of an American millionaire and a Mexican muralist. It culminates in a struggle between boy-wonder Orson Welles and government officials who want to veto his production of a pro-union opera. Some may find the movie too crowded and preachy to serve as a meaningful history lesson, but it will delight anyone who thinks our cynical age could benefit from recalling the vigorous idealism and venturesome artistry of a bygone era.
Sex/Nudity: 4 scenes including implied sex, sex, and an instance of nudity; some innuendo. Violence: 2 scenes including demonstrators clubbed by police. Profanity: 25 expressions, mostly mild. Drugs: 11 scenes with alcohol, 4 with smoking, 1 with both.
The End of the Affair (R) *** Director: Neil Jordan. With Ralph Fiennes, Julianne Moore. (110 min.)
After hiring a detective to investigate a woman he had an affair with during World War II, an English author learns she ended their relationship for religious reasons that are difficult for his cynical sensibility to understand. Based on Graham Greene's thoughtful novel, this unconventional drama begins as a sexually explicit love-triangle story and ends as a sober reflection on the meaning of faith. Splendid acting helps Jordan achieve most of his goals.
The Green Mile (R) ** Director: Frank Darabont. With Tom Hanks, David Morse, Michael Clarke Duncan, Bonnie Hunt. (180 min.)
Death-row guards in a Southern penitentiary meet a highly unusual prisoner with a gift for healing that appears incongruous next to the horrific crime he's been convicted of. The movie deals with substantial issues, but it treats capital punishment as a plot device rather than a moral issue, and its view of spiritual healing is closer to Spielberg fantasy than religious insight. Still, its good acting and good intentions will be enough to please many viewers. ***1/2 Never dull, compassionate, transcendent storytelling.
Sex/Nudity: 1 mild scene of implied sex; 5 instances of innuendo. Violence: 22 scenes including disturbing death row electrocutions. Profanity: 36 expressions, some harsh. Drugs: 5 scenes with beer.
Man on the Moon (R) **** Director: Milos Forman. With Jim Carrey, Danny DeVito, Courtney Love, Paul Giamatti. (118 min.)
Carrey is flat-out brilliant as Andy Kaufman, the maverick entertainer who pushed the limits of comic inventiveness - and the patience of TV and comedy-club audiences - before his untimely death in 1984. Less a biography than an essay on theatrical illusion and the changing nature of comedy, the picture continues Forman's string of movies ("Amadeus," "The People vs. Larry Flynt") about cultural issues as embodied by public figures who're as eccentric as they are creative. Love it or hate it, you've never seen anything quite like it. *** A superb performance by Jim Carrey, disturbing, unsympathetic protagonist.
Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes with partial nudity, 2 scenes of a sexual nature. Violence: 3 scenes with mild violence. Profanity: 27 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs: 5 scenes with smoking, 7 with alcohol and smoking, 1 with references to marijuana.
Stuart Little (PG) *** Director: Rob Minkoff. With Geena Davis, Hugh Laurie, Jonathan Lipnicki, Jeffrey Jones, Jon Polito. (83 min.)
The hero is a mouse with a human-sized vocabulary and a yen for family living, which stands him in good stead when he's adopted by a mom and dad who want to give their son a little brother. Complications arise, however, when a mouse couple shows up claiming to be his real parents. Told through animation and live action, the movie lacks the subtle sense of mystery that distinguished E.B. White's lovely novel, but nicely conveys its playful spirit and amiable tone.
Sex/Nudity/Drugs:: None. Violence: 1 long but fairly mild sequence with animals chasing and threatening one another. Profanity: 1 mild expression.
The Talented Mr. Ripley (R) *** Director: Anthony Minghella. With Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Cate Blanchett. (130 min.)
A highly neurotic young man decides to impersonate a wealthy acquaintance during a European visit, starting a chain of bizarre and ultimately violent events. Based on Patricia Highsmith's ingenious novel, which also inspired the superior European thriller "Purple Noon" in 1960, the picture has fine ensemble acting and superb Italian scenery. It would have more power if it were shorter and tighter.
Toy Story 2 (G) *** Director: John Lasseter. With voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Kelsey Grammer. (92 min.)
It's playtime for viewers of all ages as astronaut Buzz Lightyear launches a rescue operation for cowboy Woody after a greedy merchant packs him up for shipment to a faraway museum. The story is surprising, the screenplay is witty, and the animation is wonderfully creative. A super sequel. **** Clever as the first one, take the kids.
Sex/Nudity/Profanity/Drugs: None. Violence: 4 instances of cartoonish violence.
OUT ON VIDEO
Desert Blue (R) ** Director: Morgan J. Freeman. With John Heard, Casey Affleck, Christina Ricci. (87 min.)
A young actress hangs out with like-minded teenagers when she and her professor dad are stranded in a rural California town by a nuclear-hazard scare.
Dudley Do-Right (PG) ** Director: Hugh Wilson. With Brendan Fraser, Alfred Molina, Sarah Jessica Parker. (93 min.)
Wilson's funnier-than-expected comedy based on a television cartoon stars Fraser as a clumsy, yet endearing, Canadian Mountie. By Katherine Dillin
Mickey Blue Eyes (PG-13) ** Director: Kelly Makin. With Hugh Grant, Jeanne Tripplehorn, James Caan. (102 min.)
A mild-mannered English art auctioneer falls in love with a respectable New York woman whose unrespectable relatives are Mafia mobsters.
Universal Soldier: The Return (R) DUD Director: Mic Rodgers. With Jean-Claude Van Damme, Michael Jai White. (82 min.)
The action movie continues the story of Luc Deveraux (Van Damme), a former Universal Soldier now working on a government project. By Lisa Parney
(In stores Feb. 9)
The Thomas Crown Affair (R) *** Director: John McTiernan. With Pierce Brosnan, Rene Russo, Denis Leary, Faye Dunaway. (114 min.)
A suave art thief spars with a gorgeous insurance agent who uncovers his secrets while falling in love with him. An appealing cast, handsome camera work, and snappy music make this an enjoyable if lightweight affair.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society